Krystel Tien is founder and creative director of Couture Events CA, a boutique event coordination and styling studio in California. With a background in couture high fashion, Krystel Tien and her colleague Karina Hale have grown into a wedding planning and styling powerhouse. We were thrilled to get to sit down with Krystel and Karina to chat about what couture means for weddings, growing a team, and more.
What was your path to becoming a wedding planner? How did you end up creating Couture Events?
Krystel: I was born and raised in sunny San Diego, California. I received my degree in Communications with a minor in Public Relations at Point Loma Nazarene University. I spent several years in the fashion industry, working with some of the top modeling agencies, fashion designers, and the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising before stepping into the world of events where I freelanced with one of the most prestigious event production companies in Malibu, California.
In 2008 I was able to combine my love for fashion and events by founding Couture Events! Coming from the world of fashion where couture is everything, I wanted to combine all of the elements of couture into our events: quality, handmade, gorgeous, unique, and glamorous.
Karina: I always knew I had a passion for events and when I attended FIDM in 2008, it became very clear weddings was the route I wanted to take. It was the charm, the details, and the people a wedding day brings that I wanted to be a part of. One day between classes, I ran into Krystel (who happened to be the events coordinator at FIDM at the time) and she had just opened her own coordination business. I knew right then, this was my chance. I joined her internship program and shortly after, became the first hire onto Couture Events!
You’ve built a growing team at Couture Events. What was it like going from a single planner to working with a team? Do you have any advice for other planners trying to make that jump?
Krystel: For us it was a natural progression. I started out as a single planner with interns. Then one of those interns—Karina—I found I couldn’t work without (after having her work with us for 6 months) so I decided to offer her a position with Couture as my assistant. In time, I had more business than I could handle on my own so it was time to hire someone else.
Over time, Karina has become one of the best planners in the business, she has spent six years learning the behind the scenes of Couture Events and now she also coordinates. We opened Couture Events L.A. two years ago when we started getting L.A. inquires and one of our lovely interns had moved to L.A. We hired her as our L.A. director and it has taken off from there.
“Create to create, continue to let beauty and love be your guide.”
Couture Events has had a lot of fantastic coverage by the media and the press. Do you have any marketing advice for planners who are just getting started and trying to spread the word about their work?
Krystel: Try to make every shoot and wedding you do worth featuring, then push them to get featured. If you get turned down, keep trying! Your goal is to create beautiful things and want the world to see them. Try every angle; you never know what the media and press outlets might be looking for.
Do you have any thoughts on the “future” of wedding planning? What do you see coming up that’s exciting to you?
Krystel: The options are endless for wedding planning in the future and I am so excited to see what will be created. You feel like you have seen it all and the next year there is always something new and incredibly amazing!
Karina: It’s all in the details. With Pinterest taking over the wedding inspiration world, our couples are thinking outside the box to deliver something they “haven’t seen before.” It is all about getting to know your couples and their lifestyle; to create a wedding of their dreams and to really make it a reflection of them and their favorite things! With each couple, it brings endless possibilities. The excitement lies in putting meaning behind these different details and allowing us to dream with them to make it a day to remember!
It is all about getting to know your couples and their lifestyle; to create a wedding of their dreams and to really make it a reflection of them and their favorite things!
On the flip side: what’s the biggest challenge of planning that keeps you up at night?
Krystel: Continuing to grow the company and finding incredibly talented, creative, and organized planners. We have to find the best of the best to continue to grow and create fabulous quality events.
Karina: I am a people pleaser, ready to drop everything to answer an email or phone call from a bride or vendor. I want my couples to know they are special. The biggest challenge is to do this and to be completely present with my family and friends on my time off. Sometimes a phone call, email, or text needs to wait and at the end of the day I hope I am not making a bride feel like she is not important.
You were using a different project management system before you switched to Aisle Planner. Can you chat a little bit about why you switched?
Krystel: Once I saw how Aisle Planner worked I couldn’t not switch over.
We were using a planning system before that was outdated and hard for us and our clients to use. Aisle Planner is modern, user friendly, and beautiful! We love being able to present our clients with Aisle Planner as our own custom branded project management tool and they absolutely love using it. It’s really a win, win.
Everyone wins! What part of your business was the most improved after the switch?
Krystel: Before, our clients had a hard time because we were unable to keep everything in one place. Now we keep everything from their guest list, design inspiration, color palettes, budget, vendor files, notes and so much more all in Aisle Planner.
It’s really helped us create the ideal client experience while maintaining a well organized planning process on our end.
What’s your favorite feature in Aisle Planner?
Krystel: The planning checklist in Aisle Planner is a favorite feature! It makes planning with our clients and staying on the same page one hundred times easier. It’s been a life saver for us. It keeps us all organized and makes our clients feel confident about their progress in the planning process.
You opened Elle Bridal Boutique in downtown San Diego earlier this year, which is obviously a huge endeavor!
Krystel: As a wedding planner here in San Diego, I longed to create a space where brides could have a magical experience, the kind you see in movies.
I wanted to open a boutique that I would want to send my brides to, and that I would want to go to for not only wedding gifts, but also for client gifts. I wanted to open a boutique that styles brides from hear to toe, for every step of the bridal journey.
Starting with getting ready robes, to the perfect wedding dress, and on to the romantic wedding night, we make sure our brides are styled to perfection. We also carry locally made bridal gifts, paper goods and decor as well. Our goal is that every bride feels beautiful, adored, and taken care of when in our boutique.
How do you balance the demands of a thriving event planning business and a busy bridal boutique?
Krystel: Being able to balance both event planning and the boutique is attributed to two things—an incredible team and streamlining how we plan our events.
I now know that surrounding yourself with a strong team is one of the best things you can possibly do for yourself and your clients. Everyone on our team has different strengths and is able to work off each other’s strengths. I am strong enough to know that I cannot do it all myself. Having a team is the key to creating a healthy company that is able to thrive.
It’s also extremely important to streamline how you work, and implement a good system for not only planning, but also how you work as a team and how you work with your clients. With a good system in place, it’s amazing how much more productive and efficient you can be.Our decision to start using Aisle Planner has been a game changer for our business in so many ways.
So what’s the biggest challenge you’re looking to take on in the next six months?
Krystel: Over the next six months we have lots of changes happening. We are relaunching our Runway Styling department and expanding Couture Events to San Francisco and Santa Barbara.
Let’s end on some advice. What would you say if you could travel back in time and talk to a younger version of yourself?
Krystel: Keep it up. Keep working hard, dreaming big, and don’t let others’ opinions get to you.
Create to create, continue to let beauty and love be your guide. You are going to have a million brilliant ideas, every one of them might not come to fruition right now but don’t fret they will happen and you will be able to bring them to life when the time is right.
Karina: Don’t sweat the small stuff. With every wedding comes a new learning experience and that only helps you to grow. “You don’t know what you don’t know.” So just stay positive and keep on pushing. The better attitude you have and the more uplifting environment that you create—it all helps to make the process that much more fun for you, the client, and your team! Keep up the communication and focus on your relationships. Everything will work out. It always does.
Thanks, Krystel and Karina!
See more work from Krystel & Karina’s amazing team at coutureeventsca.com